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Sports

    EDITOR’S NOTE — Tennis history is filled with wonderful rivalries, and so many are remembered because of matchups in Wimbledon finals. The Associated Press is republishing stories about a handful of such matches while the canceled grass-court Grand Slam tournament was supposed to be played. One memorable head-to-head rivalry was Steffi Graf vs. Martina Navratilova, who met in three consecutive Wimbledon finals from 1987-89. The following story, about their third title match there, was sent July 9, 1989. By RICK WARNER AP Tennis Writer Martina Navratilova lost and laughed. Steffi Graf won and cried. It was hard to tell the victor from the vanquished Sunday after Graf again foiled Navratilova’s bid for the ultimate Wimbledon record. Graf overpowered Navratilova in the final set to win her second straight women’s championship 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 on a history-making day at the All England Club. After halting Navratilova’s try for a record ninth Wimbledon singles title for the second year in a row, Graf sat in her sideline chair on Centre Court, bowed her head and sobbed. It was a highly unusual display of emotion for the 20-year-old West German, who came under fire for her icy reaction after sweeping the four Grand Slam titles last year. But after losing to teen-ager Arantxa Sanchez in the French Open final last month, Graf was determined to crush all challengers on Wimbledon’s grass courts. “I wanted it so badly that I put a little more pressure on myself than usual,” Graf said. “It’s an overwhelming feeling.” No one wanted another trophy more than Navratilova, who once again was stymied in her attempt to break a tie with Helen Wills Moody and become the all-time leader in Wimbledon singles crowns. “Basically, I got served off the court,” Navratilova said. “I just couldn’t get the ball back in that last set.” Boris Becker completed the first West German double at Wimbledon by routing Stefan Edberg 6-0, 7-6, 6-4 in the most lopsided men’s final since John McEnroe allowed Jimmy Connors only four games in 1984. It was only the third time since the tournament moved to its present site in 1922 that both singles finals were held on the same day. The women’s championship was postponed a day by rain, making it the first one ever held on Sunday. It also was the first time in the modern era that the same women met in the finals three years in a row. Last year, Navratilova won the first set and led 2-0 in the second before Graf won 12 of the last 13 games. This time, Graf started strongly on a cool, cloudy day. But Navratilova rebounded after blowing a 5-2 lead in the second set and won the tiebreaker 7-1 when Graf netted a service return. Navratilova was pumped up and sprinted to the sideline, anxious to start the third set. But Graf was ready, too. Dominating with her speedy serve and laser-like forehand, Graf broke at love for a 3-1 lead when Navratilova missed three consecutive volleys. The West German went on to win the final three games, sealing the victory with her fifth ace. By then, Graf was playing so well she was almost giddy. “I had such a good feeling in the third set,” she said. “I had to tell myself, ‘Come on, concentrate’ so I wouldn’t start laughing.” Surprisingly, Navratilova was the one laughing after pushing Graf to her longest match (92 minutes) of the tournament. “Today was fun,” Navratilova said. “I enjoyed the hell out of it. I’m disappointed because I didn’t win, but I did everything I could in my preparation. It’s not like I wish I had done this or I had done that.” Navratilova skipped the entire European clay-court season to concentrate on Wimbledon, and dropped only one set in 18 matches on English grass en route to the final. But the 32-year-old American couldn’t cope with the power and speed of Graf in their first official meeting since last year’s title match. “I played a solid match, but I didn’t play great. And that’s what it would have taken to win,” Navratilova said. Graf said her loss to Sanchez in Paris — only her second of the year and seventh in the last three years — served as an inspiration. “I wanted to show I can do better,” Graf said. “I knew I could do it, but I had to prove it on the court.” Just barely out of her teens, Graf has already won seven Grand Slam titles — the 1987 French Open, the 1989 Australian Open and all four major titles last year. Navratilova hasn’t won a Grand Slam singles title since beating Graf at the 1987 U.S. Open, but felt she came close on Sunday. “I had a chance,” Navratilova said. “I had the momentum after I won the tiebreaker, but then Steffi starting serving so well. I thought she played better than last year — much better.” After losing the first set, Navratilova broke Graf in the second game of the second set and raced to a 3-0 lead with an ace. Graf came back to force the tiebreaker, but a combination of her errors and Navratilova winners evened the match. Trailing 3-1 in the final set, Navratilova had one last chance to get back in the match. But she sent a backhand approach over the baseline on break point and netted two shots that allowed Graf to hold for 4-1. “That was the right shot to come in on,” Navratilova said of the break point. “I just overhit it.” Graf received $282,150 and the victor’s silver plate, which she held aloft for the cheering crowd at Centre Court. One fan who had shouted encouragement to Graf during the match got a close-up view of his hero when she walked over to the standing-room section and showed him the trophy. “The guy was screaming after every point,” Graf said. “I just wanted to know who he was.” Two doubles titles were also decided Sunday. John Fitzgerald of Australia and Anders Jarryd of Sweden beat top-seeded Americans Rick Leach and Jim Pugh 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6 in the men’s final. Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova of Czechoslovakia downed the Soviet team of Larisa Savchenko and Natalia Zvereva 6-1, 6-2 for the women’s championship.
  • Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has canceled his annual “Funday with LJ” event in Florida due to surging coronavirus cases in the state and strict gathering limits. Jackson's third annual event was set to be held Saturday and Sunday in his hometown of Pompano Beach, Florida, but a spokesperson told news outlets Tuesday that the event was canceled. Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited in Pompano Beach due to pandemic. Instead of allowing a few people to attend the event, Jackson decided to cancel it. Jackson shared a flyer of the event on Instagram Monday, advertising flag football and water slides. It also said adults must wear face masks and waivers must be signed for children to participate. The event was scheduled to start a week after Florida reported a single-day record of 11,445 cases. On Tuesday, Florida confirmed 7,347 new cases, bringing the total since March 1 to 213,794. Another 63 people died, bringing the total to 3,943. The 45 deaths per day averaged over the last week is a 50% jump since three weeks ago. Statewide, 380 patients were reported as newly admitted to hospitals, a single-day record. ___ Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
  • Gerrit Cole couldn't have expected the New York Yankees to take the ball away from him just one batter into his first home start in the Bronx. But the team's new $324 million ace learned the hard way about one of baseball’s new coronavirus safety protocols Tuesday night during an intrasquad game at Yankee Stadium. Cole allowed a home run to the second hitter he faced, Miguel Andújar, one pitch after being forced to give up the ball he used to strike out leadoff man Mike Tauchman. “I liked that ball,” Cole grumbled on the mound. Among the safety steps instituted by Major League Baseball for this virus-shortened season is that pitchers can’t reuse a baseball once it has been touched by other players. After Cole struck out Tauchman swinging, catcher Gary Sánchez whipped the ball around the infield — a customary ritual that’s frowned upon in MLB’s 2020 operations manual. Cole shot the dugout a confused look when coaches called for the ball. Andújar crushed the next pitch into the empty right field seats. “We weren’t exactly sure if we were supposed to keep it or not,” Cole said. “We kind of made a joke about it. Looked like I probably should have kept it.” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the club is still trying to nail down some of the protocols in MLB's 101-page manual — one reason the team is scheduling so many of these intrasquads early in preseason camp. He said he wasn't sure if Sánchez was supposed to throw the ball around the infield or if umpires would make them throw out the baseball during the regular season if he did. “I have to get to the bottom of that,' Boone said. Otherwise, Cole’s first time toeing the Yankee Stadium rubber in pinstripes went smoothly. Cole faced a Yankees B team in an intrasquad game that aired locally. He pitched five innings of one-run ball, striking out six and allowing one hit and two walks. The 29-year-old tried to mimic as much of his pregame routine as possible, figuring out how to adjust to account for social distancing and the missing adrenaline that usually comes from a stadium full of fans. “This is the first kind of real, most game-like scenario I’ve been put in with it,” he said. 'It was certainly different, but everything's different. I didn’t have trouble focusing tonight, so I’m just going to try to get in my space and do what I do.” Cole is expected to start on opening night for New York against the World Series champion Nationals in Washington on July 23. SUBWAY SERIES STUFF The Yankees are set to visit the crosstown Mets on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 next season, according to a person familiar with the decision. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Major League Baseball has not yet released next season’s schedule. The Yankees and Mets won’t have to wait that long to see each other. The teams announced Tuesday they will play preseason exhibition games July 18 at Citi Field and July 19 at Yankee Stadium as they prepare for the start of a pandemic-shortened 60-game regular season. The Philadelphia Phillies and new manager Joe Girardi — formerly the Yankees' skipper — will travel to the Bronx for an exhibition game July 20. TRAINER'S ROOM Aside from INF DJ LeMahieu and RHP Luis Cessa — both isolating at home following positive coronavirus tests — RHP Jonathan Loaisiga is the only Yankees player yet to clear intake screening. The hard thrower from Nicaragua was delayed getting to New York and is awaiting results from a test taken Monday. ... C Kyle Higashioka was scratched from the intrasquad game with a sore neck. ... OF Clint Frazier has been limited to DH duties after dealing with “a little foot issue” over the past two months, Boone said. Frazier is running and doing outfield drills. “We're just slow-playing him,” Boone said. ___ Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake_Seiner ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Major League Soccer is about to resume its season — in a state that has seen a huge spike in coronavirus infections, with one team absent because of a COVID-19 outbreak, and with plenty of worry about what will happen next. The MLS is Back tournament starts Wednesday in Florida. The league’s teams are sequestered in resorts for the duration of the World Cup-style tournament, which will be played without fans at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. FC Dallas withdrew from the tournament on Monday after 10 players and a coach tested positive for the virus. On Tuesday, Nashville SC's status was thrown into doubt with five confirmed positive tests. “It's a strange time, because on one hand you're focused to get ready for this tournament, and get pumped up and get excited about it because the the tournament sounds a lot of fun, World Cup-style,” Real Salt Lake veteran Kyle Beckerman said. “But then on the other hand you're thinking, ‘Is this even going to happen?’ So there's mixed emotions going on.” The tournament kicks off with a match between Orlando City and expansion Inter Miami, a nod to the host state. Nashville was supposed to play Chicago in the second game on Wednesday night, but it has been postponed. Additionally, Toronto FC's opening game against D.C. United was moved from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Toronto was supposed to depart on Friday, but additional testing meant the Reds didn't arrive until Monday. MLS shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12, after the league’s teams had each played two regular-season games. Commissioner Don Garber said that despite the disappointment about Dallas, the case shows that the league's extensive testing in its so-called bubble is working. “We knew when we created this tournament that we would experience some impact of some of the coronavirus,” Garber told The Associated Press. “We’re all learning to live with COVID-19 and to adapt to the pandemic and to ensure that we’re taking care of each other and taking care of ourselves and following the health and safety protocols as closely as possible. We also knew that when we launched this tournament, there would be an element of risk.” Also troubling are the rising cases in Florida. On Tuesday, the state reported 7,347 new infections and 380 new hospitalizations. Portland Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said it's important to be vigilant. “I think MLS has worked very hard to try to create a safe environment,' Savarese said. 'But nevertheless, we still have to continue to make sure that we take always as a priority the health of the players, and making sure that they're safe.” While there are legitimate concerns, most of the teams are looking forward to getting back on the field and the feeling of a bit of normalcy. “We are proud of Major League Soccer, and we want to show our game to the world,” Orlando City coach Oscar Pareja said. “We're committed to that.” OPTING OUT LAFC captain and reigning league MVP Carlos Vela opted out of the tournament, choosing to remain home with his pregnant wife and their young son. Vancouver's Fredy Montero and Lucas Cavallini also decided not to go for personal reasons. Cavallini revealed that two family members had died because of COVID-19. “I would love to be out on the field with my teammates fighting with everything I have to play for this club and community in Orlando. Unfortunately COVID-19 has had a very big impact, taking away two beloved members of my family. I feel that it is best that I remain home to support my loved ones at this challenging time,” he said in a statement. The Whitecaps' Andy Rose also decided not to go because his wife is expecting a baby. Real SL defender Nedum Onuoha opted out because of the time apart from his family. KEY INJURIES, OTHER ABSENCES Minnesota's Ike Opara is undergoing treatment for an undisclosed condition and likely won't join the team until the knockout rounds. LA Galaxy's Jonathan dos Santos will miss the tournament because of hernia surgery. Inter Miami rookie Robbie Robinson left the bubble for what were described as personal reasons and won't be allowed to return. DALLAS DISAPPOINTMENT Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez spoke to reporters on Tuesday, a day after the team withdrew from the event. He said players felt hurt and hopeless in the moment — but they also knew there was going to be risk. “I don’t think there was going to be a right or wrong moment (for the tournament). I think it needed to happen and there’s no regrets,” Gonzalez said. “I’m not sorry I’m having this experience with these players, because I know it’s a good learning lesson for the league, for the game and for all the other teams.” EARLY STARTS Because of the heat and humidity in the Orlando area during the summer, some games will be played at 9 a.m. That means routines will have to be adjusted, like big pregame meals. “Never have I ever coached a 9 a.m. real game, so that will be an experience,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said. “At the same time, I think that we're going to obviously readjust the way we do things. Maybe wake up a little bit earlier, try to fuel the body a little bit differently, probably the night before and earlier that day.' THE SKINNY The 25 teams (following Dallas' withdrawal) are divided into six groups for the preliminary round. Each team will play three group-stage games over 16 consecutive days. The results in the group stage will count toward the regular season. The winner of the final match on Aug. 11 will get a place in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League. The teams are playing for a $1.1 million prize pool. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Jake Diekman has serious questions about Major League Baseball's ability to pull off a season given the issues everywhere getting timely test results, forcing delays and cancellations of workouts. For now, Diekman still plans to play. He must be extra careful given he has the autoimmune condition ulcerative colitis. “Once the regular season hits there’s no way I’m opting out, but if they don’t get the testing figured out then this whole thing will get shut down,” Diekman said Tuesday. “During the season there’s no way we can go 72 hours or longer without knowing our result, there’s just no way. There’s no way that can possibly happen and this be safe for all 60, 70 days or whatever it is.” The Oakland lefty said “I'm high risk so I'm going to have to speak out. I don't want to get sick” and represents others who must take added precautions because of an underlying condition. “There's a little part in everyone's mind that thinks this whole thing's going to get shut down,” Diekman said. “I think everyone has a little bit of fear. They might not say it but there's a little bit of fear in everyone's head that that might happen, because if they don't get this figured out, you can't have teams not practicing a day or two in a row and they have two weeks until the regular season starts. There's just no way that should happen. “If guys aren't thinking that way, I just feel like you need to be somewhat of a realist.” Across San Francisco Bay, the Giants had to cancel their planned workout Tuesday at Oracle Park because results from tests administered Saturday hadn't been received. Manager Gabe Kapler was hopeful of getting his club back on the field Wednesday. 'Nobody expected this to be easy and everybody is doing the best that they can,” Kapler said. Sure, Diekman realizes the Utah lab administering results is backlogged and facing daunting demands such as an upwards of several thousand tests a day “makes zero sense to me.” “I don't really get it,' he said. “I hope that they get the testing figured out.” An email and phone message to Daniel Eichner, President of the Sports Medicine Research & Testing Laboratory, weren’t immediately returned Tuesday. “There are two teams, maybe more, that aren't even going on the field today. That just can't happen,” the 33-year-old Diekman said. “I have no idea what else to say. In a perfect world, there would be zero, but this is the first time they've probably ever done this. This lab is probably getting anywhere, I don't know how many they're getting a week. “I know they're trying their hardest but I don't know if that's good enough for right now. It's a little worrisome,” he said. 'Say we go on a 10-day road trip and we only get results one time, that's not very good with 45-50 people in a clubhouse at one time.” ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • As baseball nears the two-week countdown to the start of its delayed season, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep more players, including Boston Red Sox projected opening day starter Eduardo Rodriguez, off the field. On Tuesday, one day after Major League Baseball released its 60-game schedule, there was continued evidence of the difficulties caused by the pandemic. The San Francisco Giants suspended workouts at Oracle Park as they awaited the results of weekend tests for the coronavirus. The Chicago Cubs' workout was delayed. Oakland left-hander Jake Diekman, who has ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune condition, said teams having to call off workouts because of delays in test results “just can't happen.” “I know they’re trying their hardest, but I don’t know if that’s good enough for right now,” Diekman said Tuesday. “It’s a little worrisome. Say we go on a 10-day road trip and we only get results one time. That’s not very good with 45 or 50 people in a clubhouse at one time.” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said one missed day wouldn't put his club behind. He said he expects the testing process to improve. “I feel as confident today as I did yesterday,” Kapler said. “I understand that there are going to be hiccups along the way. ... I think more than anything I just maintain a level of empathy for everybody that’s working really hard to get our camp up and running but also across the league and for all the clubs that are working really hard to put their players in a position to have success. Nobody expected this to be easy and everybody is doing the best that they can.” The Giants already have had prospect Hunter Bishop and pitcher Luis Madero test positive. Rodriguez, who broke out in 2019 as a star, and Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec tested positive for the virus. Rodriguez had not reported to camp after informing the team that he had been around relatives who had been ill. Dalbec, a third baseman, also is home and is asymptomatic. Manager Ron Roenicke said it is “just unfortunate” the positive test could jeopardize Rodriguez’s chances to start on opening day. Rodriguez had career-best numbers with 19 wins and a 3.81 ERA in 2019. Also, the Kansas City Royals announced right-hander Brad Keller and first baseman Ryan O’Hearn had positive tests and gave the team permission to announce the results. Keller, 24, said he has “minor symptoms that remind me more of an allergy attack.” The threat of an infection was enough for the Cleveland Indians to keep outfielder Franmil Reyes away from camp. Reyes was told to stay home after he was seen on social media attending a weekend holiday party without wearing a mask. It was an example that off-field activities can affect a player's status. Manager Terry Francona said Reyes would be re-tested “when it’s appropriate.” Francona said Reyes could have exposed himself and his teammates to the virus by not practicing social distancing or wearing a mask. Francona said he has used the incident as a teaching point for other players. He said Reyes has apologized. “This is not to poke at Franmil,” Francona said, adding Reyes is “a wonderful kid and I don’t ever want that to be disputed. But we have gone around to the other players and talked to them about it.” The Cubs' workout was delayed a few hours as the team awaited test results. On Monday, Cubs slugger Kris Bryant criticized the lack of frequency of the tests and delays in getting results. Manager David Ross said Tuesday's delay “isn’t a huge deal” and seemed bigger ”with what’s been going on with some teams the last day or so.' “We can’t just crush MLB because this is new to them, too, and the testing facility,” Ross said. The two teams from last year's World Series, the champion Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros, resumed workouts after canceling practices on Monday because of testing delays. “They’re still trying to iron out the bugs,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “No one’s happy about it — the players, the MLB, probably the testing site. But the tests came back today, and we were able to work.' Some Washington players did not take part in workouts, including Starlin Castro, Juan Soto, Howie Kendrick and Victor Robles. General manager Mike Rizzo said two unidentified players tested positive for the coronavirus. Any players and staff who came into contact with the two players had to be re-tested. “Several of those players that you mentioned beyond the two positive tests have tested negative in their intake test, but if you come into any type of contact with a player that is positive — and we cast a real wide net of being in contact — (then) you have to be re-tested,' Rizzo said. 'Those players were re-tested a couple days ago, and we’re waiting on the results on a group of those players.” Braves manager Brian Snitker, eager for a quiet day, embraced “our first normal feel day since we’ve been back.” Four Atlanta players, including first baseman Freddie Freeman and one of the team's top relievers, Will Smith, have tested positive. Two veterans, outfielder Nick Markakis and right-hander Félix Hernández, have decided to sit out the season. On Tuesday, Snitker had his first chance to address his full squad at Truist Park as he made plans for a situational scrimmage on Wednesday and the team's first intrasquad game on Monday. Before Tuesday, only small groups had been on the field as the team practiced social distancing. “I told the guys I’ve never felt so detached from the team in all my life because we’ve been here, there and everywhere,” Snitker said. “I feel like today is the start of something that we’re all kind of getting back in the swing of these things.” Among Braves pitchers scheduled to throw on Wednesday are Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Josh Tomlin and Shane Greene. The Baltimore Orioles will play their first intrasquad game on Wednesday night at Camden Yards. Left-hander Tommy Milone and right-hander Tom Eshelman will start in the game, which is scheduled for 7 1/2 innings. “Everyone’s getting tired of going through the daily workout and ready to play some meaningless games, at least where pitchers face hitters in a game environment,” manager Brandon Hyde said. The intrasquad games and workouts give top prospects opportunities to show they belong. In a matchup of the Marlins' last two first-round picks, right-hander Max Meyer faced right fielder JJ Bleday in batting practice. Both hope to make the majors this season. “Everyone has to be ready to go,” Meyer said. “COVID could go through the locker room. You never know what’s going to happen, especially the time we’re in right now. So all of us are getting ready.” ___ AP Sports Writers Kristie Rieken, Tim Booth, Janie McCauley, Kyle Hightower, Tom Withers, Stephen Whyno, Dave Ginsburg and Steven Wine contributed to this report. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • The New York Mets will host the crosstown Yankees on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 next season, according to a person familiar with the decision. The clubs will play at Citi Field in a game sure to be full of emotions for the city that's also reported over 18,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths this year. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Major League Baseball has not yet released next season’s schedule. “I can’t imagine how powerful and how emotional of an event that could be,' Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. The decision was first reported by Newsday. The 20th anniversary game will be played not far from the site of demolished Shea Stadium, where Hall of Famer Mike Piazza hit a memorable home run for the Mets against the Braves on Sept. 21, 2001 in the first major sporting event in the city following the attacks. New York wore hats honoring the city's first responders for the game. Mets slugger Pete Alonso is sure to have a hand in the planning. The 25-year-old reigning NL Rookie of the Year sidestepped MLB rules to create customized cleats for all of his teammates honoring 9/11 victims and first responders for New York's home game last Sept. 11. Alonso later donated his spikes to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum The Yankees and Mets won't have to wait that long to see each other. The teams announced Tuesday they will play preseason exhibition games July 18 at Citi Field and July 19 at Yankee Stadium as they prepare for the start of a pandemic-shortened 60-game regular season. The Yankees will start the season against the World Series champion Nationals in Washington on July 23 — the first game of the year for any team. The Dodgers and Giants will play later that night, and the rest of the league will open the next day. The Philadelphia Phillies will travel to the Bronx for an exhibition game July 20. It'll be a homecoming of sorts for former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was hired as Phillies manager over the offseason. ___ Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake_Seiner ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Patrick Mahomes risked everything when he opted for football over baseball. Turns out, he got baseball money anyway. One day after the former two-sport star got a 10-year deal worth up to $503 million, the richest contract in American sports history, the reigning Super Bowl MVP repeatedly insisted this deal was about more than money. He wants to be the cornerstone of a dynasty in Kansas City. “That’s how I’ve always been built — to follow my passions and do things to the best of my ability,' the Chiefs quarterback said Tuesday on a Zoom call. “It's never been about money for me. I’m glad we have this done and I can go out and be the same player that I was and the same person that I was.' The Chiefs are banking on it. They rewarded the 24-year-old Mahomes with $477 million in guarantee mechanisms, a no-trade clause and opt-out clauses if he doesn't hit those guarantees — clauses more commonly associated with baseball contracts than football deals. But almost from the moment Kansas City traded up to select the Texas Tech star with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2017 draft, the front office had been mapping out a strategy to keep Mahomes. “Going back to the first free agency I was part of in 2018, we had the idea of structuring deals with Pat in mind,' general manager Brett Veach said. “The one thing, as Pat's success kept going on, the numbers kept bigger and bigger. So it took off and that was a good challenge to have. But I remember when this first came out, (director of football administration) Brandt (Tilis) came to me said ‘Pat’s going to be a baseball contract, he’s that good.'” He certainly has been the past two seasons. His strong arm, fleet feet and uncanny ability to accurately throw from different angles already have made the 24-year-old into one of the league's big stars. His humble, charming personality has resonated with fans and teammates alike, and the resume is starting to fill up, too. After throwing only 35 passes as a rookie, Mahomes broke virtually every single-season franchise passing record in 2018 when he was the league's MVP, the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year and led the Chiefs to their first AFC championship game in a quarter century. Then, despite missing two games with a dislocated right kneecap last season, Mahomes closed the regular season with six straight wins and capped the season by rallying Kansas City with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to give the Chiefs their first Super Bowl title in 50 years. That's all coach Andy Reid needed to see a long-time investment would be worth every cent. “I’m so happy for Pat, for the Kansas City Chiefs organization and really for the city of Kansas City for having this opportunity to have a true franchise quarterback here, one that was drafted here which hasn’t happened for almost the duration of the Chiefs organization,' Reid said. “I think Brett did a phenomenal job of organizing this. I joked that he and (former general manager John) Dorsey wore me out about bringing Pat here, saying he was the best player they'd ever seen.' And it almost never happened. Mahomes was a top baseball prospect out of high school and might have followed his father, Pat, and his godfather, LaTroy Hawkins to the big leagues if he had been selected earlier in the 2014 draft. Some thought he was worthy of a $1 million deal. But the fear of Mahomes spurning the baseball world for football sent his draft stock sliding, until the Detroit Tigers took him in the 14th round. That was the only sign Mahomes needed. But he still found a way to cash in with a deal that surpasses Mike Trout's previous record with the Los Angeles Angels of $426.5 million. Mahomes wanted even more from the Chiefs. By agreeing to a deal that would keep him in Kansas City for 12 more years, Mahomes wanted to make sure the 62-year-old Reid would still be coaching and that the Chiefs had enough flexibility under the salary cap to reward his teammates. Once he checked those two boxes, Mahomes was ready to sign for the half-billion dollar paycheck. “I knew from the moment I stepped on Arrowhead Stadium field that this was where I wanted to spend my entire career,' Mahomes said. “I’ve always believed in the legacy thing and I think you see that with the whole entire team. They want to be a part of this culture and they want to build a dynasty. That takes a lot of work and I think we have those guys in this locker room.' ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • Cody Bellinger was well on his way to becoming the National League MVP only 60 games into last season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, already with 20 homers in that stretch before his 24th birthday. Over that same span for the Houston Astros last summer, Justin Verlander won nine games and struck out 103 batters on the way to his second AL Cy Young Award. The veteran right-hander had more wins and strikeouts through the first 60 games for the American League champions than he did just over one-third of the way into the 2011 season for the Detroit Tigers, when he finished 24-5 and was also the AL MVP. After 60 games this year, it will already be time to determine who wins those awards. There will be no more games to be played in a regular season that's set to begin July 23 and is 102 games shorter than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic. Bellinger was only the fifth MVP from either league over the past 20 seasons to have 20 homers in his team's first 60 games — Barry Bonds did it twice, and the last to do it had been Bryce Harper with the Washington Nationals in 2015. The Dodgers were 41-19 and already with a big lead in the NL West, with Bellinger hitting .376 with 52 RBIs. He finished at .305 with 47 homers and 115 RBIs two years after being the NL Rookie of the Year. When Bonds set the single-season record with 73 homers in 2001, the first of his four consecutive MVP seasons, baseball's home run king also had the best 60-game start in the majors over the past 100 years with 32. The best such start for an active hitter was the 25 for three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols in 2006, though Ryan Howard won the MVP that season. Only one Cy Young winner over the past 20 seasons has had more than the nine wins Verlander had after 60 games last year. Randy Johnson was 10-1 with 139 strikeouts through his first 13 starts over Arizona's first 60 games in 2000, when he won the second of his four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards. NO LOSSES Only three Cy Young winners since 2000 have gotten through their team's first 60 games, generally 12 or 13 starts, without losing a game. The last was Max Scherzer for the Tigers in 2013, when he was 8-0 with a 3.24 ERA and 100 strikeouts through 12 starts. He finished 21-3, matching the fewest losses overall for any Cy Young winner in that stretch. Brandon Webb was 8-0 through 13 starts for Arizona on way to being the 2006 NL Cy Young winner, two years after Roger Clemens went 9-0 starting 12 of Houston's first 60 games and won the NL award before the Astros switched leagues. VARYING TWINS Justin Morneau likely wouldn’t have been the 2006 AL MVP if that season had ended after 60 games, when he was hitting .240 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs. That included his two homers and five RBIs in Minnesota's 60th game, the first of five consecutive multi-hit games to start a tear when he hit .364 the rest of the season to finish at .321 with 34 homers and 130 RBIs. Three years later, Twins teammate Joe Mauer was hitting .415 through 60 games in his MVP season, when the Twins again had a losing record at that point before winning another AL Central title. Mauer ended at .365 with 28 homers and 96 RBIs. Mauer and Morneau have the highest and lowest batting averages for any MVP through 60 games since 2000. When Rod Carew was the AL MVP in 1977 with the Twins, the Hall of Fame left-handed hitter finished with a career-best .388. That was also his exact average after 60 games, though he peaked at .411 between then and the end of the season. CHASING .400: Tony Gwynn would have been a .400 hitter had the 1997 season ended after the San Diego Padres played their 60th game, when he was at .403 — he finished with a .372 average. When the Hall of Fame outfielder and 15-time All-Star hit a career-best .394 in 1994, he was at .378 through 60 games. In 2008, nine years after Chipper Jones was the NL MVP, he was hitting .409 through Atlanta's first 60 games. The Hall of Fame third baseman hit a majors-best and career-high .364 that season. Gwynn and George Brett are the only players who have finished within 10 points of a .400 season since Ted Williams had the last one in 1941. Williams hit .406, only one point lower than he was through Boston's first 60 games that season. Brett was at .337 through 54 games for the Kansas City Royals in 1980 before missing a month because of an ankle injury. He returned to hit .421 over the last half of the season, and was at .400 overall on Sept. 19 before finishing at .390 for the AL champions. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • The NFL and the NFLPA haven’t come to an agreement on all protocols for training camp and the preseason as the report date for teams draws closer. The two sides finalized the protocols regarding team travel, media, and treatment response, and have also updated the facilities protocol to specifically address training camp based on recommendations from a joint committee of doctors, trainers and strength coaches formed by the league and players’ union. The league sent a 42-page memo to teams last Friday outlining those proposals. But the NFL Players Association and its president, Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter, say testing and the number of preseason games remain unresolved. “Our normal return date for training camp is quickly approaching and we are still far from back to ‘normal,'” Tretter wrote in a letter on the union’s website. “Our main concern is player safety, both in regard to preventing the virus’ transmission as well as preventing injuries after an extended and historically unique layoff.” Tretter reiterated that players don’t want to play any preseason games and want a 48-day training camp schedule to give them more time to prepare for the season and avoid injuries. He cited an increase in injuries following the 2011 lockout. The league last week decided to cut the preseason schedule from four games to two and pushed back the start of exhibition play an extra week to give teams more time to prepare because the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of on-field workouts. The league previously requested that players report to camp earlier than July 28 to give them more acclimation time for strength and conditioning because they held no formal workouts or team minicamps. But the union declined. “When we asked for a medical reason to play games that don’t count in the standings during an ongoing pandemic, the NFL failed to provide one,” Tretter wrote. A league official told The Associated Press that Tretter’s comments were “disheartening” to read because “we’ve been working in good faith.” The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league doesn’t want to engage in a public dispute similar to the contentious discussions between Major League Baseball and its players’ union. “It’s not constructive. We’d rather do this face to face,” the person said. “The committee understood the utility of playing one or two preseason games to get players ready for game-day conditions, which you can’t simulate playing against yourselves, and also to practice the protocols. We will continue working together.” Tretter is concerned players could return only to have the season shut down before it starts. 'It has been clear for months that we need to find a way to fit football inside the world of coronavirus,” Tretter wrote. “Making decisions outside that lens is both dangerous and irresponsible.” One idea suggested by the union’s medical director, Dr. Thom Mayer, to help control the spread of the virus was to have players wear face masks. The league’s engineers and sports equipment company tested prototypes for the masks but players shot it down. ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL